Is it an ultimatum or psychological manipulation?

“Do this or I’m gone!”, “Do this or you will regret it!”, “It’s either my way or highway”… Sounds familiar? Hearing such statements is not pretty. Saying it to someone is worse.  There is a difference between an ultimatum and a choice, and the options in an ultimatum are not usually pleasant. It is common for partners to give ultimatums to each other.  If you’re in the relationship that actually requires you to use manipulation as a tactic, it’s obvious you’re not in a good place. You’re either unfulfilled, have a need for a change or you’re simply not happy with yourself or your partner. It’s not a contest for power.  Ultimatums seldom work. And if they don’t, intimidation often comes next. Ultimatum is another way of controlling the other person & intimidation hides an intention of harming people.  Threats however, are another form of emotional blackmail. Instead of having partners be emotionally inspired, they react to a fear of being beat up or having their legs broken. Threat to leave someone for example is a classic manipulation & an attempt to inject the fear of abandonment. 

It is important to have boundaries in any relationship as long as they don’t become a form of manipulation. By giving someone ultimatums, you are taking away their ability to make decisions & to be who they truly are. We all have our needs & desires and we are simply looking to our partners to help us fulfill them. It is never OK to live by “my way or highway”. Lay everything out so both parties can hear it & see if you have the same understanding about it. It doesn’t mean we have to like what we hear but the key is to listen, have a tolerance & open mind. Be honest about what you’re looking for but be careful how you communicate it. It’s not what you say but how you say it. You can tell anyone anything & it all depends on how you verbalize it. It’s a bad idea to approach your partner as you would approach a used car salesman.

Some might argue that ultimatums are simply laying out your non-negotiable demands & giving someone a choice to either accept it or not. If that is the case make sure the message you are trying to deliver is out of the need for fairness or to protect your best interests & not because you’re trying to control someone. In some cases ultimatums are given as a sign of “tough love” & are generally directed towards difficult children or partners. Instead of ultimatums, practice compromises. Find a true way to meet in the middle. Compromises can be tricky. Don’t cave into the decision because it’s easier. Healthy compromises benefit both parties. But be careful & don’t give up too much of what is important to you for sake of a relationship or friendship. Don’t lose the sense of who you are. Promote trust & accountability in your relationship. A compromise shows that you have a common happiness in mind, rather your own singular pleasure at heart.


“Never accept ultimatums, conventional wisdom or absolutes” – Christopher Reeve

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